Eric’s Note: OBSERVE is a new international photography collective focused primarily on the practice of candid street photography. I have sent questionnaires to all 13 of the members, and will feature their responses and images on the blog for the next upcoming weeks. This week’s feature is Danielle Houghton, based in Dublin, Ireland.
Danielle: Picking up a camera in my teens I found myself automatically taking pictures of strangers without really knowing why. After a long break, I now find myself doing the same but this time with a name and understanding of my folly. I like to appreciate the odd in the mundane and find that suburban life can be nicely quirky. In Dublin I often shoot by the coast, in parks or even from the car window. While visually pleasing settings are very important to me the real beauty of photography stems from the uniqueness of people and those moments that cannot be repeated.
1. What does street photography mean for you on a personal level?
It is a passion that runs very deeply – somewhere I can escape to physically and mentally. I also now see normal life in more of visual way – framing images and scenes in my mind even when there is no possibility of capturing with a camera.
2. What do you want your viewers to take from your photographs?
How people and places can provide instant fascinating subjects, resulting in images that are, I hope, thought provoking or quirky or funny or sad or visually pleasing.
3. Why do you photograph?
Although I do not shoot on a daily basis there is a compulsion to shoot. I enjoy the actual process of shooting. I revel in the challenge of capturing what I see as interesting.
In a sense I collect images.
4. What are some other types of photography (outside of street photography) which interest you?
While I only really dabble outside of street photography, I have always enjoyed a variety of genres. Often it can be just down to an individual photographer that interests me rather than necessarily a genre.
I do have a keen interest in social documentary photography but also I am very interested in artists who use photography in their work and blur or mix the two disciplines.
5. What excites you most about being a part of a collective? And what do you hope to contribute to the collective?
In our collective I feel we connect more than just photographically as we had bonded as a group of friends some time ago and the collective evolved from there. . I really like the idea of going on a photographic journey with people who I get on well with in addition to admiring their work.
I hope to contribute fun, ideas and the odd semi decent shot!
6. Tell us the story of one of your favorite street photographs
I like this shot as it touches on the psychology of people which I find interesting, and the fact that it came about from an instinct to hang around close to this group for a while.
To me it appeared that the girl looking on at the kiss was actually with the hooded guy, but either she was just hopeful of that or they were and he was teasing her by kissing her friend, or maybe it was just free love!
7. Who were some of your photographic heroes when you started off?
The initial photographers I had exposure to were the usual b&w classics, but the first photographer that really excited me was Martin Parr – BANG! it was a loud gaudy in your face way to observe people and I loved it. Other early favorites were people like Larry Sultan, Joel Peter Witkin, Don McCullin and William Eggleston.
8. How did you discover “street photography”?
I instinctively had practiced street photography a bit over the years without knowing that there was an actual term for what I enjoyed. I discovered really what the term was all about and began immersing myself into that genre when the Photographers’ Gallery in London carried out the year long Street Photography Now Project in 2010-2011.
9. Can you share one of your favorite photos (from another member of the collective) and share why you love it?
I think we often like layers and complexity in street photographs, and yet here is an example of packing a punch in a beautiful straightforward way taken by my friend and colleague Michael. It is also of course a step away from what purists would deem street, but I think it is in line with a more modern view.
The shot is so visually pleasing, the lushness of the green becomes tactile in its richness and I can imagine the feel of wading through the moist leaves and hearing the crunch. I can also visualize the dew on the dog’s nose. It may not make me think deep thoughts but it happily makes me stare for a long time.
10. If you started street photography all over again, how would you do it differently?
I would have started it younger and practiced it more in my 20’s when I was travelling and had more freedom, especially when I lived in the States.
11. What is one question nobody has ever asked you about your work that you wished they asked you?
Do you talk to yourself while taking a shot?
12. What are some visions you have for the collective?
Obviously I hope we all continue to grow as street photographers and remain a supportive bunch of friends who have fun. Although our goals would ultimately include exhibiting and books, I think we would also like to develop as a collective that would connect with all types of people interested in street photography.
My more personal vision is for us all to grow old gracefully and disgracefully together with random International meet ups over the years!
13. Do you feel it is valid if a street photographer participates in making a photo, not just observing the event?
Personally I believe if there is explicit direction in a shot, it ceases to be what I would classify as ‘street’ but could still be a photograph I would enjoy looking at or still be for example a ‘street portrait’.
But it is a grey area where everybody has their own boundaries and definitions, for example your own shadow can be in the scene and it can still be street, your subject can be aware of you taking a shot and react to that fact and maybe even interact with you and it still can be street. For me the fun of street is the challenge and frustrations that it brings by not being a controlled situation.
14. How do you think your photos reflect who you are as a person?
I think they reflect me – my inquisitive side (yes I used to be a kid that stared too much) and they also bring out my humour which can be a bit dry and not very obvious when you meet me, though ultimately I think they reflect a certain optimism I have for the world and for life.